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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 14, March 28, 2015

Tahira Mazhar Ali Is No More

Monday 30 March 2015

Distinguished Pakistani women’s rights activist and Leftist leader Tahira Mazhar Ali passed away in Lahore on March 23. Her husband, Mazhar Ali Khan, the eminent Leftist journalist, predeceased her several years ago. She is survived by her daughter Tauseef Hayat, sons Tariq Ali and Mahir Ali, grand-daughter Kamila Hayat. Her funeral took place at her residence in Shah Jamal, Lahore on March 24.

PILER and Pakistan Peace Coalition’s Tribute

Karachi, March 24, 2015

Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, the undaunted champion of the rights of the poor and permanently marginalised sections of the society—workers, peasants, women and minorities—is no more. She fought for their rights for more than sixty years, not only in the streets of Lahore but across the country, defying lathis and tear gas.. While celebrating her eventful life and outstanding contribution to the emancipation of women and the working class in particular, and also to the peace movement, we express our profound sorrow at the irreparable loss the people of Pakistan have suffered on the passing away of this great woman activist of South Asia. Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan’s role as a leader of the working class and peace movement stands out as unique, considering that she hailed from a wealthy and powerful feudal family of Punjab and was the daughter of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, pre-partition Prime Minister of united Punjab for five years, but that did not stop her from raising the banner of revolt against all reactionary and oppressive forces in the country and their anti-people policies. Backed by her late husband, the legendary progressive journalist Mazhar Ali Khan, Tahira Baji, as she used to be called fondly by her friends, lived a life worthy of emulating by all peace and rights activists everywhere.

We condole with Tariq Ali, Mahir Ali, Kamila Hayat and all members of the bereaved family and the countless friends and admirers Tahira Baji has left behind to mourn her death.

Karamat Ali,
Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER)

B.M.Kutty
Secretary General, Pakistan Peace Coalition

Editorial (March 25, 2014) in The News International

Tahira Mazhar Ali

Known as the founder of the progressive women’s movement in Pakistan and a Left-wing leader in her own right, Tahira Mazhar Ali passed away on Monday (March 23). In her the Pakistani Left lost a great supporter; she will be remembered fondly by her comrades, all of whom learnt from her compassion and determination. Daughter of Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, landlord and premier of pre-Partition Punjab, and wife of famous Leftist journalist Mazhar Ali Khan, Tahira Mazhar Ali charted out her own path and, some would argue, surpassed the legacy of the two men. Tahira Mazhar Ali, once she had chosen the path at a very young age of fighting for the rights of the people, continued to do so till the very end—devoting her energies to the rights of the working class, especially women. Having married leftist student leader Mazhar Ali Khan at a young age, Tahira was amongst the founders of the Democratic Women’s Association (DWA) in 1950, affiliated with the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). The DWA is considered to be Pakistan’s first independent rights group for women. In 1971, Tahira was amongst the few who protested against the Pakistani state’s war in the former East Pakistan. In the Zia era, she joined other leading women rights activists to form the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) in 1981 to resist the Islamisation agenda of the military dictator.

Tahira also put her income into Mazhar Ali Khan’s Viewpoint, which became the breeding ground for some of the best journalists today. Even in her last days, she was part of the Central Committee of the National Workers Party and Workers Party Pakistan before health issues took over and she could not continue. At the age of 85, and at a time when many Leftists have given up and joined more lucrative interests, Tahira Mazhar Ali stayed true to the cause of socialism. And she was no arm-chair communist. More than anyone else, her positions and politics came out of years of struggling with the working people. In her own words, to her activism was not a ‘profession, it was life’. She walked shoulder to shoulder with the great Leftist leaders of the 1960s and 1970s, including Sajjad Zaheer, Mirza Ibrahim, Sibte Hassan and Wali Khan. No one could have predicted that this daughter of the elite would live her life as an icon for working class men and women alike. Tahira Mazhar Ali’s legacy will continue to inspire all those struggling for the rights of women and the working class.